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The GeoVisions Blog

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Doctor Who And Volunteer Abroad

I need to publicly thank my daughter, Molly, who provided background for this post.
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Volunteer Abroad: Do You Fit In?

Yesterday I wrote a post about "How I See You." I thought I would follow up that post with actual comments from GeoVisions' volunteers in-country right now. I hope you'll read some of them to see if you think you fit in.
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At GeoVisions I'm Thankful For...

on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | Thank You To Our Volunteers Randy LeGrant
I'm sitting here at my desk this Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving and just opened up iTunes and chose some holiday music.  I know, a little early but it just felt good to me. I'm thankful for our volunteers and teachers who ventured overseas this year to make a huge difference in people's lives.  They gave their time, they gave their money and they made sure they left their communities and schools better than they found them. Our company and business model runs on a strong overseas partner network.  I'm thankful to all 54 of our overseas partners.  It has been one challenge after another in 2011 and you have demonstrated your patience by hanging in there with us.  And I'm thankful that you are so open-minded.  We sure came up with some very creative programming ideas in 2011, which you embraced with a smile and operated flawlessly. 2011 has seen the number of voluntourism sending organizations double.  Everybody and their brother thinks they can do this from home and that it's easy.  Cruise lines offer 2 hours of volunteer projects and call themselves "sustainable" and resorts and hotels sprinkle in a few hours of volunteering like I would spices on my food--and they call that voluntourism.  I'm thankful for our  competitors who copied some of our programs.  My friend and business partner, Kevin Morgan, constantly reminds me that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."  I, however, "like" the Facebook Page Imitation Is NOT The Most Sincere Form Of Flattery...It's Just ANNOYING!  To our competitors who copy our programs and think you can do them better and cheaper…I invite you to "like" that Facebook page.  But thank you for showing me our program ideas are great. I'm thankful for our staff.  We have it right.  It has never felt so good and comfy around here.  These are dedicated men and women who live, eat and breathe taking care of our volunteers, teachers and overseas partners.  They check their emails on their days off.  They make overseas calls from home when necessary.  They have some of the best ideas I've ever heard and I've done this work since 1975. I'm going to name a few people I'm particularly thankful for being in my life personally and professionally.  I'll leave some people out by mistake, and I'll piss off a few others.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all anyway. My two business partners, Kevin Morgan and James Miller.  I would not be sitting here with so many blessings if it were not for the two of you.  I cannot imagine better partners.  And together, when we get into one room, we have 115 years of combined experience in International Cultural Exchange.  That is powerful and you can't imagine the problems that can be solved with that much rich experience focused on the issue at hand. Working with family has its ups and downs and it is especially hard on the staff because they have no idea who to go to when they get frustrated.  I'm thankful that my daughter, Alexandra, was able to take us to the next level of how we use social media.  My son, Christopher, has been with us since day-one and you can't imagine what a wonderful feeling that is. Few spouses can live together for many years.  And I have one who has not only found a way to live with me, but work with me as well.  I am so difficult.  I want everything done my way, and everything done right, and I second guess everyone's decisions except mine.  And "I want it yesterday."  So I'm thankful that I have a spouse who can live with me and work with me and who can take all of my negatives and turn them into positives…unselfishly.  She's content to stand in the shade.  We share our office, our ideas, our hopes and dreams.  She puts all these wonderful programs together by taking my ideas and bringing them to life.  We would have evaporated into thin air if it were not for Rebecca. Voluntourism.org popped on to my radar in 2008.  I flew out to San Diego to meet Dave Clemmons.  In the last 3 years we have spent quality time together, and I'm very thankful for you, Dave.  You have shown me the light, and you make certain that light never goes out.  You don't even allow it to flicker.  You walk your talk and that's an incredible example for the rest of us. Thank you for spending a year in Jordan and in an area of the world that is so important to be in right now.  The work we plan to do together next year is so exciting for me, because even at my old age you continue to show me I can learn. There are a lot of "vendors" that help us so much.  Mitch over at GoOverseas has been incredibly helpful and lots of fun to talk to.  Gregory Hubbs at TransitionsAbroad has brought our listings there to life and is a huge tribute to the incredible work his father did in this field.  But amongst them all, Troy Pedden and Crispina Reynera at GoAbroad.com have demonstrated so much patience and in particular, Troy has shown me "the heart" of business ethics and in all honesty, they rise above anyone else's I know. When are we friends with our competitors?  How many of our competitors can we sit down with and have a few beers and talk for hours?  Go for bicycle rides in California?  I'm very thankful for two of my competitors who are now two of my very close friends.  They are no longer my competitors.  We simply share the same interests.  I'm talking about Randy Sykes, the President of ISV Student Volunteers and Jean-Marc Alberola, the President of Bridge.  And while I'm at it, I'm adding in here Alexia Nestora, the owner of Lasso Communications and who runs the Voluntourismgal Blog.  Before that, Alexia was the President of i-to-i North America.  When GeoVisions decided to offer volunteer and teach abroad programs these three people more than anyone else opened their companies, their minds and mostly their hearts to show me the very best way to provide volunteer programs responsibly.  I cannot imagine my life without the 3 of you in it. Where do I pick up my statue?  Oh…this is my Thanksgiving post. Normally I'm ranting in my posts about online reviews and cruise lines and resorts jumping on the band wagon and deluding themselves and their customers that they are really making a difference in the world.  So this personal post is a huge departure from the norm of what you would see here.  For those of you who wonder if I have a heart…see?  I do.  For those of you who prefer my rants…stay tuned next week. In the meantime, if you celebrate Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving.  If you don't, have a great week and weekend and I trust we'll see you back here next week.
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Volunteers Know That Ready Or Not: Disasters Don't Care

on Thu, Sep 01, 2011 By | Randy LeGrant | 4 Comments | Thank You To Our Volunteers Make Something Happen Guilford
In the early morning hours on Sunday, August 28, Hurricane Irene came ashore in Guilford, CT. Guilford is home to GeoVisions' Global Work and Service Program office. It is also home to most of our staff.
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Make Volunteer Abroad A 2007 Priority

on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | Reasons To Volunteer Abroad Thank You To Our Volunteers
It has been a busy month in planes, trains and automobiles, if you will pardon the movie reference. From its celebrated symbols of patriotism to its undiscovered neighborhoods, the sights and sounds of Washington, DC are inspiring.  Beyond it’s most familiar vistas, the capital city unwinds into a lively urban center.  Casual cafes and upscale bistros line the trendy streets of Georgetown, while the downtown district sizzles with a host of new restaurants. Spontaneous Jazz notes tumble out the windows of U Street's nightclubs, while world-class performers take the stage at the highly acclaimed Kennedy Center. Kayakers tackle the Potomac River as it winds past the elegant marble tributes to America's great leaders. I was invited to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  President Carter established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust November 1, 1978. Then in 1980, Congress unanimously passed legislation to establish the United States Holocaust Memorial.  I was surrounded by visions of Darfur…the current exhibit on show there.  But the focus that day was on the fate of all people who are isolated, persecuted, incarcerated and abused for being a certain color, living in a particular part of the world, or exercising religious freedom. The following day it was next door to Baltimore, a bustling city built on tradition and civic pride and the location of HBO’s hit mini-series, The Wire. Since the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor in the late 1970s, Baltimore has set the standard for urban renewal and is now a major travel destination welcoming over 11 million business and leisure visitors each year. The crown jewel of Baltimore is the Inner Harbor, a scenic and popular waterfront area with dozens of retail stores, restaurants and attractions. This, combined with Baltimore's easy accessibility, makes the city unique. What most people don't realize is that most sites and neighborhoods are within walking distance of each other, and this makes Charm City an ideal place for business as well as pleasure. My meetings in Baltimore included a stop at The Orchard Street A.M.E. Church.  Free Blacks and slaves donated their labor and in 1837 built the structure at night by torchlight. According to oral tradition, the church's original buildings served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. During the 1970s, construction workers uncovered a secret tunnel underneath the church, which is now the oldest standing building constructed by Blacks in the city of Baltimore.  There was an enormous effort recently for funding, after a water main burst and flooded the church. And now I have just returned from London, where I met for three days with our CEO, Kevin Morgan, our COO, Jim Miller, and our UK partners who help us provide unique teaching and volunteer experiences there. Our meetings were held in Mayfair, set roughly between Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly and Park Lane, which is at the very heart of London.  This area has been owned by the Grosvenor family since 1677 and takes its name from the 15-day May Fair, once held there every year.   Mayfair's expansive and handsome architecture has always attracted the very wealthy. For nearly 300 years the most influential people in the land have enjoyed its elegant squares, broad Georgian thoroughfares and beautiful parks.  Mayfair also boasts the capital's most exclusive shops, hotels, restaurants and clubs. The results of our meetings in London will provide not only a more firm foundation of volunteering and teaching abroad, but also create a framework around consistent themes that make each GeoVisions project a safe, secure and life-changing experience for the community and the volunteer. Thank you for making 2006 another great year! We always appreciate our volunteers, teachers and anyone interested in our overseas opportunities.  But during the holidays we reflect on the many people who make our Global Work and Service Programs strong. Providing inspiring volunteer and teaching opportunities in 18 countries in 60 different projects worldwide, we have much to be thankful for. Please know that as we grow you are always important to us and your voice will always be heard, no matter how many volunteers and teachers work with us. Pushing the envelope to improve our programs, responding to the needs of our overseas partners and being fairly priced and managed are our top goals. In 2007, we hope that you will continue to be impressed with our Global Work and Service Programs. To our volunteers and teachers (and those thinking about volunteering) — best wishes for a wonderful holiday. To our overseas partners — good luck with your inspiring work next year at each of your projects. Know that we are behind you, providing the very best teachers and volunteers worldwide to help fulfill your mission! I look forward to seeing you in 2007! Randy LeGrant Executive Director GeoVisions
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